Our Stories, But Who's Watching?

Have you seen any Canadian films lately? It’s likely that you haven’t, because they aren’t that easy to get to. The Toronto Film Festival Group released its list of the Top 10 Canadian films of 2006 this week and most of them haven’t been seen outside of the festival circuit. I would say it is only because I am an avid TIFF attendee that I've seen any homegrown films this year.

Here is the Top 10, celebrating the best of Canuck cinema:
  • Away From Her – Sarah Polley
  • Congorama – Philippe Falardeau
  • The Journals of Knud Rasmussen – Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn
  • Manufactured Landscapes – Jennifer Baichwal
  • Monkey Warfare – Reginald Harkema
  • Radiant City – Gary Burns and Jim Brown
  • Sharkwater – Rob Stewart
  • Sur La Trace D'Igor Rizzi – Noel Mitrani
  • Trailer Park Boys: The Movie – Mike Clattenburg
  • Un Dimanche a Kigali – Robert Favreau
Sharkwater was one of our festival faves, at has been cut by 90% since the 1950s. It, like many of the films on the list, has not been released yet, nor does it have a distributor. Even Sarah Polley’s film, Away From Her, won’t hit theatres until May.

I haven’t seen the Trailer Park Boys movie, which made the list, nor the top grossing Good Cop, Bon Cop, which did not. Neither of which had any appeal to me in the first place. So do I really have the right to tell people to go and see Canadian films? Perhaps not.

This year the festival didn’t separate the Canadian films in the program, placing them in the categories that were the most appropriate – allowing them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of world cinema. If we picked a Canadian film it was because it appealed to us – being homegrown was just an added bonus – which is how I think it should be done. But outside of the festivals, it can be difficult to find a screen with a Canadian film on it, or two even hear about them in a Hollywood dominated entertainment press.

If people don’t even have a chance to see the best of what comes out of this country – as evidenced by the TIFF list – than how will the industry even grow any larger? Maybe it is time for some Cancon regulations for theatre distribution. It worked for the music industry.


  1. Sadly, I think the only Canadian film I have seen lately is Beowulf and Grendel, and that was only because WalMart had it on DVD by some miracle. It seems to me that not only is one unlikely to find Canadian films on movie screens here in the States, but on DVDs in stores as well. I find this sad, as over the years I have had the opportunity to see a few Canadian films and some of them have been quite good. Sadly, here in the States I think everything is dominated by Hollywood.

  2. The good news is that if you live in TO, you can see all these movies in January, complete with director/cast Q&As. I bought tix for the screenings of Away From Her, Monkey Warfare and Radiant City, and none of them have sold out yet.

    PS - I considered Sharkwater, but decided against it on the off chance it features whales...


  3. Mercurie - I like to tell you that there is more chance to see Canadian films here, but actually, not that much more. Now I don't want to proclaim Canadian films are inherently good for being Canadian, but there is good work being done.

    Jen - there are no whales in Sharkwater, go see it. No elevators either. And she is right about the Top 10 screenings - it's like a mini festival and well worth a look.

  4. I've only seen two of the movies on the list ("Away From Her" and "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen") though I must say I've actually at least heard of the rest which is much more than I can say for some previous years.

  5. So do you think it's because the panel chose more recognizable films, or because these films are getting more play?